Several days ago, University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier spoke about compensating college athletes for their play, reigniting the fire behind what has been a hot topic in the NCAA of late.
“We’re trying to get extra money for living expense, academic expense, game-related expense to our players because of the tremendous amount of money — billions — they’re bringing (in),” Spurrier said.
He makes a valid point. The NCAA and universities are making a huge profit off of a product they don’t have to pay. Sure, many of the players receive athletic scholarships, but that money is a drop in the bucket compared to what the schools are bringing.
The NCAA reports that college athletics generate $6.1 billion each year for member conferences and institutions, with ticket sales and TV contracts making up the most of that figure. Meanwhile the NCAA itself is projected to bring in a measly $777 million for 2011-2012.
This makes it tough to take the NCAA’s side when players trade memorabilia for tattoos, as they did at Ohio State, when the Buckeyes are made $115,737,022 off those players in 2009 (the most recent numbers available; the whole list is available here) without compensating them. That scandal tore long-time coach Jim Tressel and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor from the team.
The examples go on. Former Georgia Wide Receiver AJ Green sold a game-worn jersey for $1000 and was suspended four games for it. At that time, six version of his jersey were on sale through Georgia’s website.The NCAA creates rules to prevent players from creating a brand for themselves for the sole purpose of not losing any of its own profits.
If the NCAA paid its players, they would have far less incentive to violate these policies and the NCAA and its member colleges would receive significantly less bad press.
While the NCAA rakes in billions, players cannot sign endorsement deals or receive any money from their athletic ability. That ability can only generate profit for the NCAA until the student-athlete graduates or enters a professional league and gives up his NCAA eligibility.
But of all the players and revenue-generating NCAA sports, the large majority of them “go pro in something other than sports.” These players still contribute to their teams’ success and their sports’ popularity. So while the lack of compensation of athletes can be justified for top players, as they get free publicity and will likely make millions as professional athletes after several years of “indentured servitude” to their college, the players who aren’t pro athlete material generate money for the NCAA any never receive payment for it.
While some argue college athletics have become a form of modern day slavery, that analogy is a bit of a stretch, but some of the similarities are there.
The NCAA and its universities are profiting solely because of the talent of their athletes, while providing no compensation in return.
Spurrier’s suggestion wouldn’t make a huge dent in total NCAA profits either. He is suggesting just a $3,500 to $4,000 stipend to each player, which in reality, is far less than they are worth.
Sure, paying college athletes takes away from the integrity of the sports, but based on the way the NCAA exploits these players and the scandals that come from players trying to find away around that exploitation, I’d say that integrity has long since gone.